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Idaho State Fish

Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarkii Adopted: April 5, 1990
Idaho state Fish
Idaho State Fish: Cutthroat Trout
Courtesy: United States Geological Survey

Adoption of the Idaho State Fish

The cutthroat trout was adopted as "state fish of the state of Idaho" by the 42nd Idaho Legislature and approved by Governor Cecil Andrus on April 5, 1990.

Impetus for the bill naming an official state fish was provided by a group of fourth-graders from Kuna, Idaho with their teacher Jim Killet leading the way. Mr. Killet introduced a study unit that required dissection of a fish, anatomical diagrams and research. Or, as Mr. Killet put it,

"We had a unit. We cut the fish up and we examined the internal parts of fish and we studied all the anatomy of a fish and the diagrams of fish. It was a wonderful unit. Then the culminating aspect, of course, at that time was to present the bill to the Idaho state legislature. 1"

Primary reasons given for adopting the cutthroat trout as Idaho's state fish:

  • The cutthroat trout can well represent all Idaho waters and anglers.
  • The fish is native to the state.
  • A key resource to early settlers, it was an important part of the states' natural heritage.
  • The cutthroat trout's sensitivity to changing and degraded environments and its value as a sport fish make it a barometer for the quality of life in Idaho.
  • Declines in numbers of fish reflect problems in natural environments and resource management. The adoption as an official state fish can help raise public awareness about these problems.



Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Idaho:

SECTION 1. It is the sense of the legislature that the Cutthroat trout is the fish best representing all Idaho waters and anglers. The Cutthroat trout's historic significance as the first of the salmon or trout in Idaho and as a key resource for early Idahoans makes this fish an important part of Idaho's natural heritage. This fish's sensitivity to changing and degraded environments and its value as a sport fish for Idaho anglers makes it an ideal barometer for the quality of life. Dramatic declines in recent history highlight problems in natural environments and resource management. Recognition as the state fish can help build the public awareness and support necessary for thoughtful use of our aquatic habitats and all associated resources. Cutthroat trout can be a symbol of Idaho's natural heritage and high quality environment.

SECTION 2. That Chapter 45, Title 67, Idaho Code, be, and the same is hereby amended by the addition thereto of a NEW SECTION, to be known and designated as Section 67 4508, Idaho Code, and to read as follows:

67 4508. STATE FISH DESIGNATED. The Cutthroat trout is designated and declared to be the state fish of the state of Idaho.

Approved April 5, 1990.

No particular species of cutthroat trout is specified in the legislation. There are three subspecies of cutthroat trout native to Idaho and all three can be considered official state fish.

All three subspecies, native to the lakes and streams of Idaho, display the red slash marks just below their gill covers on the lower jaws. These markings give the cutthroat trout its name.

Native to Idaho

  • Bonneville cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii utah) including the Bear Lake variation.
  • Westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi).
  • Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri) including the Snake River fine spotted variation.

The scientific name for the cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii, references Captain William Clark, who first offered a detailed description of the cutthroat trout of the Columbia River. His expedition partner, Meriwether Lewis had also encountered cutthroats near Montana's great falls on the Missouri river. Meriwether Lewis was recognized with the scientific name for the Westslope trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi.

1 As reported in the Idaho Fish and Game News Release, From Lesson to Legacy: Cutthroat Plate, of May 6, 2003.


Idaho Statutes. Idaho State Legislature. 2007. 14 April 2007
Idaho State Legislature. 2007. 19 April 2007 <http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/>
Idaho Department of Fish and Game. 2007. 19 April 2007 <http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/)>
Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.

Additional Information

Idaho state Fish
Cutthroat trout : Idaho state fish

Cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii: Information about the cutthroat trout from the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology's Animal Diversity Web.

Cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii: Description from the National Wildlife Foundation's eNature.com.

Bonneville Cutthroat Trout: In their efforts to restore native trout populations in the west, the Western Native Trout Initiative provides this assessment of the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, native to Idaho.

Westslope Cutthroat Trout: In their efforts to restore native trout populations in the west, the Western Native Trout Initiative provides this assessment of the Westslope Cutthroat Trout, native to Idaho.<

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout: In their efforts to restore native trout populations in the west, the Western Native Trout Initiative provides this assessment of the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, native to Idaho.<

Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii (Richardson, 1836): Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2009.FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (01/2009).

Oncorhynchus clarkii (Richardson, 1836): Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Here you will find authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

Fishing in Idaho: Website of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Idaho Flyfisher: Idaho's most comprehensive, up-to-date on-line fly fishing information. This site is about Idaho, from Idaho, by Idahoans. Idaho offers more fly fishing diversity than you will find just about anywhere else in the world.

Fly Fishing Idaho
Fly Fishing Idaho
by Bill Mason

Cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii: Description, life history, feeding habits, and angling techniques from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

State Fish: Complete list of official state fish.

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Idaho state symbols.

Fly Fishing Idaho: A Quick, Clear Understanding of Where to Fly Fish in Idaho, by Bill Mason. 80 pages. No Nonsense Fly Fishing Guidebooks; 2nd edition (December 1, 2005) This colorful guide provides a clear understanding of the most enjoyable and rewarding waters in Idaho. Detailed maps annotated by the author show you where to fish and how to get there. In this guide you'll learn about Salmon River, Silver Creek, High mountain lakes, Big Wood River, Henrys Fork, Kelly Creek, Clearwater River and many more.

Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho, by Ken Retallic, Rocky Barker. 480 pages. Wilderness Adventures Press; 2nd edition (April 1, 2002) his comprehensive guidebook covers all major Idaho rivers, including the Henry's Fork and Island Park Reservoir, Teton, South Fork of the Snake, Big Wood and Little Wood, Silver Creek, Salmon, Boise, Payette, Clearwater, St. Joe's, Lochsa, Selway and more. A detailed, easy to read text also addresses the popular gamefish with descriptions of each, including: cutthroat, rainbow, brown and brook trout, steelhead, smallmouth and largemouth trout.

Trout Flies of the West: Best Contemporary Patterns from the Rockies, by Jim Schollmeyer, Ted Leeson. 128 pages. Frank Amato Publications (December 1998) While Schollmeyer and Leeson's other book - The Fly Tier's Benchside Reference - is a great instructional treat, this book is focussed on those flies the locals use here in the West. Recipes come from a variety of sources (shops, guides, tyers) and it is interesting to note the differences in local varients of well known flies.

Trout and Salmon of North America
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by Robert J. Behnke

Trout and Salmon of North America, by Robert J. Behnke. 384 pages. Free Press (September 24, 2002) Behnke, professor emeritus of fishery and wildlife biology at Colorado State University, has brought his more than 50 years of studying, and fishing for salmon and trout, to wonderful effect. He provides readers with an authoritative compendium of the evolution, biology, ecology, habitats and behaviors of these prized game fish. A capsule legend that includes scientific name, other common names, habitat, size, life span and diet accompanies each entry, amazingly illustrated by Tomelleri, whose fish seem to shimmer on the pages. Habitat maps, which include coastal waters, rivers, streams and lakes, are detailed and specific enough to be taken on fishing excursions. The book includes a good deal of fishing lore, as in the notations that describe the best flies, bait and lures for specific types of fish and locales.

Native Trout of Western North America , by Robert J. Behnke. 275 pages. American Fisheries Society (December 1992) This book results from almost four decades of research and practical experience with this group of fishes. This work addresses the evolution, taxonomy, and present distributions of members of this group of fishes (cutthroat, rainbow, Gila, and related indigenous trout of the West), and proposes a conservation philosophy to sustain them.

About Trout: The Best of Robert Behnke from Trout Magazine, by Robert J. Behnke. 272 pages. The Lyons Press (September 1, 2007) Behnke brings scientific expertise, a sense of humor and a flair for drama to this collection of 43 essays previously published as his About Trout column in conservation organization Trout Unlimited's Trout magazine. Behnke considers the evolution, historic and current distribution, biological characteristics and defining physical traits of various species of trout and salmon-from the common brown trout and well-known Atlantic salmon to the rare Apache trout and the once-presumed extinct, now-endangered Alvord cutthroat trout.

Trout Rigs & Methods
Trout Rigs & Methods
by Dave Hughes

Trout, by Ray Bergman. 576 pages. The Derrydale Press (October 25, 2000) Trout is arguably the finest single volume ever produced on how, why, and where to catch trout. In spite of being originally published in 1938 (Penn Publishing Company), it remains utterly relevant.

Trout Rigs & Methods, by Dave Hughes. 322 pages. Stackpole Books (January 10, 2007) Clear and simple instruction and explanation describes 18 trout rigs and 81 methods to fish them. In moving water: rigs and methods for dry flies and emergers, nymphs, wet flies, streamers, and dry flies and droppers. In stillwater: dry flies and sunk flies.Fly fishers learn the specifics of the rig--types of fly line, lengths and tapers of leader and tippet, the flies, and split shot, putty weight, strike indicators, droppers, point flies, and indicators--and the full array of methods to present the rig to the trout.

Essential Trout Flies, by Dave Hughes. 92 pages. Stackpole Books (April 2000) A core list of flies that will catch trout anywhere, in every season, this collection includes the most important patterns in a wide range of styles, from dry flies to streamers. The tying steps for each pattern are illustrated in step-by-step photos with detailed captions, followed by photos and recipes for the six most useful variations-217 patterns in all. Each chapter features a description of the insect the pattern imitates as well as expert information on how and when to fish the fly.

Rivers of Restoration: Trout Unlimited's First 50 Years of Conservation, by John Ross. 192 pages. Skyhorse Publishing (September 8, 2008) For fifty years, the volunteers of Trout Unlimited have strived to restore, sustain, and preserve the nation's trout and salmon waters. Weaving together human and natural histories, Ross tells the stories of twenty watersheds where Trout Unlimited has labored to save rivers damaged by human shortsightedness.

Trout & Salmon, [ Magazine Subscription ] Features, news on all aspects of game fishing.

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